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Muslims Still Face a Stubborn Bigotry

posted on: Jun 21, 2008

One of the great things about America is its ability to have a national debate on any issue that leads to change. The fact that African Americans were not allowed in major universities, or the front of buses, or certain bathrooms only 50 years ago and now have a presidential candidate is testimony to this American greatness. But to achieve greatness one must overcome challenges of American bigotry and racism.

This is what Muslims are facing today in America, albeit not to the same extent as other minorities endured in the past.

But Islamophobia is running rampant in American society, and the incident involving the blocking of two Muslim women wearing hijabs from seats at the Obama campaign event in Detroit is a symptom of that problem.

The expected response is outrage. How dare a candidate whose campaign platform promotes diversity exclude Muslims? But then again, why are we surprised? Candidates have been either running scared from the Muslim vote or exploiting anti-Muslim hysteria to win cheap votes.

Candidates also have raised millions of dollars in Muslims’ homes, as long as there is no publicity or photographs.

Sen. John McCain’s campaign recently dismissed Michigan businessman Ali Jawad, an Arab American, from his state finance committee, another sign of fear.

Our challenge as Muslim Americans is to help America overcome its insecurities and achieve freedom from fear. The hijab for Muslim women, or the turban and kufa for Muslim men, are not the issue. The real concern about the participation of every group in America requires the ability to see the opportunities that come with inclusion.

Detroit Free Press
Salam Al Marayati
Executive Director, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Los Angeles